EPR Planning in Nepal….

Earlier Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.9 No 19, April 22,2016 (Baisakh 10,2073)


An organization needs to manage risks as part of its core management operation if it aims for a sustainable growth that ensures safety of employees and well-being of community in which it operates. Businesses and organizations may face significant risks associated with natural disaster, technological crisis or sometimes socio-political upheaval. In Nepal, this has been more evident in the recent Gorkha Earthquake devastation and the crisis brought about by the border closure.

In a broader perspective, disasters and emergencies can therefore have natural and technological causes or they can be man-made. They could have origins outside a business or could also be caused by its own operations within the organization.

So, what is at stake today?

Most often, disasters strike us without warning and may cause harm and disruption to our businesses and organizations. Under the circumstances, employees or their families may suffer great deal of physical injuries or even death while company buildings, equipment, inventory and information may be damaged or lost. Disaster emergencies can also affect businesses more indirectly, for instance by disrupting supply chain network both upstream and downstream. Suppliers, distributors or customers may be unable to do business transactions meanwhile internal operations as well as logistics may collapse miserably.

Such risks may not be prevented or eliminated entirely but the level of impact can be reduced through Emergency Preparedness & Response (EPR) planning within an organization.

The EPR planning is primarily for the safety of employees and facilities while at the same time it also ensures continuity of business and community well-being. It basically prepares us for diverse kinds of potential emergencies by equipping us with swift response system to safeguard our employees as well as our business facilities. Moreover, it could help businesses/organizations including their employees, operations and nearby community to recover more quickly and effectively after a disaster situation.

Where do we start?

While the entire planning procedure can be discussed at length, this piece of writing here simply provides a good starting point for any organization to plan for or at least start thinking about possible contingency plans. Moving ahead with risk assessment, resource allocation, their mobilization and plan implementation phases, there might be instances when expert advice would be needed to bring in other tools, templates, documents and resources such as Hazard Identification, Vulnerability Assessment, Evacuation Planning, Procedural Writing, Hazard Communication, Safety Management System, Business Impact Analysis, Employee Training, Exercises, and Drills etc.

Setting goals and objectives

Although an EPR planning seeks inputs from various layers of management within an organization, the leadership of top level management is critical for its successful implementation.

First off, business managers should sincerely set their organization-level resilience goal, objective and scope while formulating their contingency plan. She/he could start with a basic understanding of the EPR planning activities and later move ahead with an easy-to-follow steps to develop a customized EPR plan, suitable for her/his organization.

In preparation of an EPR plan, the specifics within the objective would first require a thorough review of organization’s current level of emergency preparedness. This could be achieved by clearly identifying the potential hazards faced by the employees, facility and business operations within the organization. Risk assessment, mitigation actions and writing emergency response procedures could be the consecutive significant facets of developing an organization-level Emergency Preparedness & Response plan.

Let’s break it down into simple steps

At times, developing an effective Emergency Preparedness & Response plan can be a very challenging, time-consuming as well as cumbersome task for organizations. Thus, it is important to grasp the overall picture by first breaking it down into simple steps to follow. For the ease of understanding below we’ve divided the EPR planning into 5 major steps.

Step 1 – Committing to EPR planning:The key actions involved in this step would ensure your company’s commitment to increasing your organizational emergency preparedness. Top leadership commitment is a must.

Step 2 – Conducting a thorough assessment of hazards/ vulnerabilities in and around the facility: The key actions involved in this step would help gather information about possible disasters or emergencies that could impact your business as usual. They would also help review your facility’s existing capabilities to respond to and recover from a disaster. For adequate risk mitigation, priority actions should be set and acted upon after the completion of risk assessment.

Step 3 – Developing an emergency response plan:The key actions involved in this step would describe the activities your business or organization will undertake to protect it and its employees before, during and after an emergency. Step-by-step detail procedural writing is essential at this juncture. Care must be taken to prioritize and address all the hazards identified in Step 2.

Step 4 – Implementing emergency response plan: The key actions involved in this step would help the planning committee to implement the emergency response plan with employees. Employee training, exercise and drills are probably the most important aspect of any emergency preparedness and response planning procedure.

Step 5 – Helping communities prepare for and respond to emergencies:The key actions involved in this step would help you make additional commitments aligning with your company’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to prepare for a natural or man-made disaster. This is also important because we know that business organizations and communities are inextricably intertwined together and that they have to support and nurture each other to survive and sustain, especially when a disaster strikes.

Could this be your milestone business initiative?

Increasing number of disaster is rapidly becoming a global phenomenon. We do not need to look elsewhere as we revisit a series of recent disasters that took place in our own backyards. As avalanche, landslide, flood, fire, earthquake, cyclone, political strike and economic blockade are becoming frequent events, are our organizations and private businesses ready to face such painful surprises? How prepared are we to sustain our businesses through these catastrophes?

First and foremost, top leadership as well as executive business managers should be ready and willing to take ownership of their organizational EPR planning process.

It is absolutely clear that disaster threats; natural or otherwise will remain no matter how hard we resist. However, the emergency planning can certainly help businesses/organizations take proactive measures to reduce the impact and likelihood of loss after a disruptive event.

Therefore, considering the inevitable nature of disasters we might face someday, preparing and planning for emergency could be a milestone initiative by every organization of all shapes and sizes countrywide.

Earlier Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.9 No 19, April 22,2016 (Baisakh 10,2073)

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Bangladesh Rana Plaza collapse: Need for a comprehensive DRM/BCP

Rana Plaza Collapse(Photo Source: Google)

Background Review

24th April 2016, the collapse of Rana Plaza garment factory complex, the deadliest industrial accident in the history of Bangladesh, marked its 3rd anniversary. To commemorate the loss, thousands of survivors, activists, relatives of the deceased and victims gathered at the factory site in the outskirts of Dhaka.

Three years ago, the disaster boldly highlighted the unsafe labor conditions in the country while claiming nearly 1,138 lives and left more than 2,000 seriously injured or disabled.

Although dozens of officials and inspectors have been arrested over the incident, no one has been convicted yet. Post disaster, the entire episode put pressure on the government as well as several western garment brands to improve labor conditions and pay the compensations for the loss.

International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that some $40 million was needed to compensate the families and disabled garment workers alone.

The Rana Plaza garment factory debacle brought about massive movements for similar industries to sign up for the newly implemented Bangladesh fire and building safety accord. Although some progress have been made in the direction of maintaining a safe working conditions, there still remains several unresolved issues such as lack of full implementation of newly-legislated labor laws, absence of a comprehensive building safety inspection process, and inadequate arrangements to compensate the victims of industrial accidents.

The garment industry of Bangladesh generates $25 billion revenue annually while supplying 60% clothes to Europe, 23% to the US and 5% to Canada. Immediately after the disaster some key garment buyers and international retailers withdrew from Bangladesh while others responded with an objective of improving the factory condition including building infrastructure, fire safety and working conditions of the workers.

At the time, there were about 30 major foreign retail brands which were supplied by more than 5,000 garment factories in Bangladesh. It was sad to see that, in the wake of the disaster, only half of the retail brands came forward to compensate the family and the injured workers as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Businesses need to understand that the social responsibility of private sector goes beyond the day-to-day operation of producing efficient products and services for customers. The CSR of a company is not concerned just with its clients, suppliers, employees and shareholders but also with communities and other downstream stakeholders who take an interest in the behavior of the company.

Sometimes private businesses are so busy making money they forget to see the complete picture and misinterpret CSR as mere charity works in bits and pieces. Of course there are short term benefits associated to these philanthropic activities to both business houses as well as communities but the targeted social and business impact gets diluted as often budget is limited and not sustainable for the desired cause.

Rana Plaza CSR(Photo Source: Google)

Businesses definitely need to rise above the charity and the compliance requirements set by the government or international bodies and work on building a solid & sustainable platform where private sectors, communities and stakeholders can come together for shared values and well being of people & environment as a whole. CSR can bring fundamental value to the private companies only if they learn to incorporate it into their growth strategy and sustainable business model.

Potential Business Threats

As per Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), foreign buyers cancelled orders worth USD 110 million from 37 factories in 2014. The number of new ready-made garment factories also declined from 113 in fiscal year 2012-2013 to 65 in fiscal year 2013-2014.

On one hand Bangladesh has this immense need to address its existing safety and disaster preparedness issues such as fire and building safety accord while on the other it has more immediate challenge to quickly restore confidence of the foreign retailers so that the garment business continues with minimal disruption.

Although identifying and fixing structural flaws of other similar business complexes, developing emergency preparedness & response plans and establishing proactive safety management system within private businesses will definitely take some time, Bangladesh cannot afford to lose its foreign retailers by not meeting the basic safety requirements just now.

The country and the private sector need to move together and faster if they want to recover and restore the garment businesses as ethics, brand image and consumer awareness are rapidly becoming the competitive grounds for the growth of any organization.

Further delaying and not meeting the basic safety standards might signal the international market or retailer brands to diversify to other countries which can provide with private businesses which are safety compliant, better prepared to face such disasters, have capabilities to respond to such emergencies and are well equipped to quickly recover from the tragedy.

Similar industrial accidents had happened in Bangladesh in the past but probably were not loud enough to register a wakeup call for the government or the concerned authorities. Most importantly, the Rana Plaza disaster could have been predicted and prevented or well-responded had they adequate safety and disaster risk reduction measures in place.

Disaster Risk Management (DRM) & Business Continuity Plan (BCP)

When a disaster of such magnitude strikes, the entire business community go frantic, not sure what to do next? Now, let’s imagine the extent of multiplying impact when a disaster like this replicates many times over in the event of a massive disaster, say earthquake. When the scale of disaster is enormous, even the government and outside agencies become helpless in supporting the private companies before it is too late. According to the Insurance Information Institute, USA, up to 40% of businesses affected by a natural or man-made disaster never reopen.

After a disaster, companies would get under great pressure while managing activities related to emergency response, disaster recovery and finally continuing the business as usual. Unless these companies are prepared with adequate contingency plans guided by Disaster Risk Management (DRM) principles, it is hard to visualize their continued operation in the post-disaster scenario.

During such crisis, the most urgent need of businesses would be to quickly respond to the emergency (saving lives & property) and secondly, to recover its operational activities (becoming functional & continuing business as usual) at the earliest. Hence there arises the need for a comprehensive Business Continuity Plan (BCP).

BCP of an organization presents a holistic management approach which ensures that critical business functions will remain operational and the disaster recovery will be handled in a timely manner with minimal interruption. An effective BCP aligns with the overall DRM and CSR strategies, if an organization is willing to envision its long-term security, creative business leap and opportunities for growth.

Rana Plaza and BCP(Photo Source: Google)


BC Planning is a capability building process for an effective execution of risk reduction, emergency response and disaster recovery plans of any organization. Long-term sustainability of businesses depends on various stakeholders including employees, their families, shareholders, communities, suppliers, customers, government, media and other support groups.

During an emergency, it might be overwhelming to manage them all and make quick decisions, especially when a great deal of money is involved. Therefore, BCP, a proactively thought-out procedure, can help a business to swiftly manage its resources as well as supports from other stakeholders.

Having a closer look at the increasing number of natural, human-induced or technological disasters these days, the need for BCP is aptly justified for any small, medium or large scale organization. Developing a BCP will improve the likelihood that businesses/industries will not only survive and recover themselves, but will also help their neighbors, communities and the entire country to recover more quickly.

Strategically planned companies would first invest in BCP to build their disaster resilience which in turn would enable them to continue their CSR efforts in the event of a catastrophic disaster. At the same time, BC Planning itself could be a significant part of CSR building process for any organization that is truly responsible to its employees, communities and customers. If an organization’s vision is well aligned with its DRM objectives and CSR values, business continuity planning is bound to happen in that organization.

Lesson to Learn     

The collapse of Rana Plaza building served a lesson to Bangladesh. It has woken up a great number of private sectors, government bodies, employees, stakeholders and other groups from in and outside the country. Considering the parallel in demography, infrastructure, government policies, business culture and the level of preparedness for disaster, it really brings us closer to the Rana Plaza experience and provides a real-time lesson to learn from.

In Nepalese context many small, medium and large businesses, with 70% public investment in them, hold up the backbone of the country’s economy. Therefore, developing BCP could prove to be the right foot forward by the private businesses. In order to support strategic DRM needs and elevate sustainable CSR value of a company, BCP implementation could be a milestone initiative by the private businesses in Nepal. This certainly is a wake-up call to the government, private sector businesses and their stakeholders in Nepal.

Also Read:

(Part II) (2 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards

(Part II) (1 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards

(Part I) (1 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards

(Part I) (2 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards

Fire Prevention and Fire Protection – Air Pollution in Kathmandu – Construction PPE – Carbon Monoxide poisoning – Electrical Safety – Fall Protection in General Industry– Fearsome 4 of Construction Safety – Fall Restrain System Vs. Fall Arrest System – Respiratory Protection – Portable Ladder Safety – Confined Space Entry – Initiating First Aid/CPR – Are you too busy… – If you have $86,400 in your account… – Safety professionals have job prospects as Insurance Risk Surveyor or Loss Assessor

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Disaster Risks in Nepal: Perception Review

PERCEPTION(Photo Source: Google)

Prior to the Gorkha Earthquake 2015, National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET), under the Public-Private Partnership for Earthquake Risk Management (3PERM) program sponsored by the USAID/OFDA, conducted multiple earthquake risk perception surveys of various private-sector stakeholders in Nepal, during the years 2013 thru 2015.

The core objective of the survey was to discover the industries’ individual-level as well as organization-level earthquake/disaster risk perception. The participants included various private sector business personnel as well as core business stakeholders from diverse fields such as manufacturing, trading, retailers, pharmaceuticals, construction, telecommunications, commerce & industries.

Post-Earthquake, in 2015, another round of such earthquake risk perception survey was carried out in as many as 15 private-sector manufacturing houses including brick, cement, reinforcement steel, CGI Sheet, GI Wire and four different construction companies to understand their present-day perception of disaster risks, the level of disaster preparedness in their organizations and major obstacle faced by the industries while moving in the direction of building an organization-level Disaster Risk Management (DRM) system.

riskmanagement(Photo Source: Google)

In this study, the pre and post-survey results were then carefully compared, analyzed and presented graphically. Altogether, around 500 competent individuals participated throughout the entire survey process. A major portion of the actual survey questionnaire-set, listed below in Table 1, has been discussed in this article.

Table 1. Earthquake/Disaster risk perception survey questionnaireTable 1

  • An encouraging 73% of business circle thought that the earthquake preparedness activities could help them face disasters at personal as well as at organizational level. After the Gorkha Earthquake, the perception for the need of earthquake preparedness has certainly gone up. 87% of the construction sector businesses think that preparedness can help them in the event of a real disaster. Please see below Figure 1 and 2.

Figure 1. Before the Gorkha Earthquake 2015Figure 1

Figure 2. After the Gorkha Earthquake 2015Figure 2

  • A total of 78% private sector survey-responders acknowledged that they at least knew something about the existence of earthquake safe building technology and relevant safe construction practices. The level of awareness has risen since the advent of the earthquake. Altogether 93% of the construction sector industries claim that they are aware of such safe practices. Please see below Figure 3 and 4.

Figure 3. Before the Gorkha Earthquake 2015Figure 3

Figure 4. After the Gorkha Earthquake 2015Figure 4

  • Before the Gorkha Earthquake, nearly 85% of the private sector responders admitted that they either didn’t have an Emergency Management Committee in their organizations or they had no idea about it. Although there is some progress, an alarming 67% of the construction sector organizations still don’t have Emergency Management Committee in place. Please see below Figure 5 and 6.

Figure 5. Before the Gorkha Earthquake 2015Figure 5

Figure 6. After the Gorkha Earthquake 2015Figure 6

  • 87% of the responders agreed that they either didn’t have emergency/disaster preparedness, response or business recovery plans in their organizations or had no clue about their existence at all. There is no major shift in the preparedness level of the companies, although the level of initiative in this direction has risen from 4% to 33%. In the post disaster scenario, 80% construction sector companies were still sitting struggling with no Emergency Preparedness & Response plan or a Business Recovery Plan on hand. Please see Figure 7 and 8.

Figure 7. Before the Gorkha Earthquake 2015Figure 7

Figure 8. After the Gorkha Earthquake 2015Figure 8

  • A majority 30% of private sector responders had pointed to ‘Lack of knowledge’ as one of the main reasons for not having a Disaster Risk Management (DRM) program in their organizations. Besides, ‘Lack of qualified professionals’ and ‘Lack of Government guidelines’ were the next major reasons why companies didn’t have DRM in place. After the Gorkha Earthquake, there seems to be a major hike in the response which points the finger at the Government for not encouraging or pressing enough to have an organizational DRM. 47% of the construction sector industries think that there is a serious lack of concrete government policy which is hindering the process of DRM implementation in business organizations. Please seeFigure 9 and 10.

Figure 9. Before the Gorkha Earthquake 2015Figure 9

Figure 10. After the Gorkha Earthquake 2015Figure 10

Also Read:

(Part II) (2 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards

(Part II) (1 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards

(Part I) (1 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards

(Part I) (2 of 2) Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards

Fire Prevention and Fire Protection – Air Pollution in Kathmandu – Construction PPE – Carbon Monoxide poisoning – Electrical Safety – Fall Protection in General Industry– Fearsome 4 of Construction Safety – Fall Restrain System Vs. Fall Arrest System – Respiratory Protection – Portable Ladder Safety – Confined Space Entry – Initiating First Aid/CPR – Are you too busy… – If you have $86,400 in your account… – Safety professionals have job prospects as Insurance Risk Surveyor or Loss Assessor

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